On a Sunday evening a couple weeks ago, I got stuck in an elevator with a friend and his six-year-old kid. Panic was inevitable.
My anxiety transformed into a super power in that elevator, though (so much practice halting my own downward spirals!). And I wanted to share the straightforward trick that helped me and that six-year-old avoid a full meltdown.
The report from the most recent MRI on my right knee is filled with words I don’t understand — and not just because they’re German. ‘Subluxation’ is the same in English and auf Deutsche. ‘Chondral degeneration’ and ‘joint effusion’ are pretty close. ‘Arthrose’ translates neatly to ‘osteoarthritis.’ And meniscus is readily understandable with a ‘k’ instead of a ‘c.’
The meaning of the medical terminology is opaque in either language. The effects on my life, however, are obvious — and leave me wondering about what osteoarthritis and a host of complications mean for meditating.
Most of us could stand to show ourselves and others a little more kindness. And I feel that need for compassion is more with the amplified sense of hatred, fear, confusion, and division that’s reflected in my social media feeds.
I ended my last online Yin Yoga class with a short meditation to encourage compassion for ourselves and others and I’ve recorded this short practice to share more broadly.
Sukasana or easy pose is sometimes decidedly not easy. In fact, it’s name is often a misnomer and holding the pose can be very challenging for anyone who has troublesome ankles, knees, or hips.
Without a block or bolster under my seat, ‘easy pose’ becomes ‘incredibly-hard-and-uncomfortable pose’ for me within a couple minutes. Knee injuries, tight hips, and internal femoral rotation come together to make sitting cross-legged a hard pose to hold when I’m not propped. Which means I’m rarely in sukasana without something tucked under my butt – even if it’s only a folded mat or sweater.
Just about everyone who’s taken a yoga class has done easy pose. It’s often where a practice begins and ends and is the most common position for meditating. If you find sukasana decidedly uneasy, try adding height under your seat – props can make a huge difference!
Why it’s good
Stretches knee and ankle joints – and sometimes the hips as well
Help strengthen the muscles along your spine (erector spinae) and contributes to good posture
Helps calm your mind and manage stress when you hold the pose as part of meditation
How to do it
Sit on your mat or the floor, with your buttocks on the edge of a cushion, block, bolster, or folded blanket
Sitting on something tilts your pelvis forward and helps your knees come to the floor
The higher your seat, the easier it is to relax your hips and soften your knees
Bend your knees so they fall to the outside of your body and place one foot in front of the other
Avoid crossing your ankles, which puts pressure on the joints
Add padding under your ankles and/or feet if they are sensitive or if the floor is particularly hard
If your knees aren’t resting comfortably, support them with folded blankets or blocks
Find the centre of your seat by moving back and forth and from side to side
You should feel evenly balanced – right and left, front and back
Straighten your spine, roll your shoulders back and down, and lift through your collar bones
Rest your hands on your knees or thighs or in your lap; relax your hips and legs
Feel the crown of your head float up towards the ceiling, connecting you with the sky; feel your sitting bones grow heavy, rooting you into the earth
Bring balance to the pose by alternating sides
If you’re holding easy pose for a few minutes, switch your front leg halfway through
If you’re coming into easy pose multiple times in a practice, change which leg is in front each time
To come out of easy pose:
Uncross your legs (using your arms and hands to help if you’d like) and slowly unbend your knees
Gently bring movement back into your legs
Straighten and bounce your legs
Rest the soles of your feet on the mat/floor, bend your knees, and drop them side-to-side in windshield wipers
Carry on with the rest of your practice or the rest of your day
Easy pose externally rotates the hips, so you may wish to counter it with an internally rotated pose like deer (see how to do deer pose on YinYoga.com), although many people feel no need for any counter pose at all.
During the meditations, which involve chanting mantras and sometimes use mudras (hand gestures), Sofie curls up in front of me and settles into a meditative state of her own. She helps bring out my meditative best and seems to create an even more calming energy for the group. And she loves getting petted and cooed at by students 🙂
Sofie regularly joins me when I practice yoga or meditate at home, so she’s very used to the process. Within minutes of rolling out my yoga mat, she’s on it. Sometimes I can convince her to provide assists, like applying a little pressure to my hips in swan/pigeon pose or letting me use her as a prop in child’s pose. And she’s always willing to rest next to me during savasana.
One of the challenges of any meditation or yoga practice is letting go of all the mental clutter and simply experiencing the present moment. Dogs are masters of ‘now.’ Sofie doesn’t understand ‘later,’ or ‘before,’ she’s entirely in the present. Exactly how I want to be when meditating!
The Healing Circle Meditation is a free monthly event at Bound Lotus. If you or someone you love could use a little healing boost and/or you’re interested in experiencing a group Kundalini meditation look for the next date on the Bound Lotus website. Hopefully Sofie and I will be meditating there with you!
Practicing meditation can be a powerful way to change the way you think.
The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt posits that there are three ways to change your thinking and permanently alter the way you view the world: Prozac (or other similar medications), cognitive behavioural therapy, and meditation.
Meditation is the cheapest and comes with far fewer side effects that medication!
And I highly recommend taking a look at Haidt’s website and reading his book. It’s a scientific approach to why we think the way we do… and how to make ourselves happier.
If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.